As with human medicine, veterinary has seen the rise of misinformation with the advent of the digital age. The ease with which people can access information and share opinion has led to the propagation of a number of common vaccination myths.
MYTH - There is no need to vaccinate after the initial course of vaccines: This is something heard regularly from people who have allowed their pets vaccinations to lapse. The myth arose as a result of vaccination policy in humans as we do not need yearly vaccinations here in the UK. So, if we do not need them, why do our pets? This comes down to the effectiveness of the vaccines developed for companion animals but also varies dependent on what you choose to vaccinate your pets against. Over the years, the vaccine schedule has been altered from yearly vaccinations of everything to yearly for some, every 3 years for others. As we develop better vaccines and a better understanding of immunity in our pets, this will likely change again.
MYTH - I thought the diseases were eradicated? Vaccination has been very effective at drastically reducing the number of cases of diseases such as parvovirus and distemper. They have not, however, eliminated them entirely. Outbreaks of parvovirus are still seen in areas with low vaccine uptake and these cases are always sad to see.
MYTH - Isn’t vaccinating dangerous? What about reactions? Reactions can happen with anything you put into the body. Allergies can develop to drugs, suture materials, foods, and yes, vaccinations. The incidence of serious reactions is actually very low considering the number of vaccines used every year, but the risk is always there. If you think your pet may have had a reaction, even a minor one, it is important to let us know so we can help minimise the risk.
MYTH - Vaccines are full of dangerous chemicals: Some of the chemicals used to preserve vaccines can be dangerous in large quantities. The amount in each vaccine is actually extremely small and well below the tested safety limits.
MYTH - Homeopathic nosodes (specialised remedies) are safer and just as effective: Homeopathy has seen a lot of press in the last 5 years. Some good, some bad. A study was conducted looking at the effectiveness of nosodes in mice when compared with conventional vaccination. Protection against disease with the nosodes was about 20%, whereas the conventional vaccines were almost 100% effective at preventing disease within the animals being studied. Nosodes may offer some protection but are not reliable enough. This is not an exhaustive list of the myths circulating and it is always a good idea to talk to your vet if you have any concerns about vaccinating your pets.